Piper turns 6, thoughts on Kindergarten, and a purse.

Last weekend we celebrated Piper’s 6th birthday – let me just go ahead and say the usual…I can’t believe I have a 6-year-old, blah blah blah (but it’s very true). 6 seems pretty big as it is, but then I realized that next year she’ll turn 7 – WTF?! SEVEN?! That seems way older than 6 for some reason. I remember being 7!

Anyway, this year her birthday was on a Saturday, and our parents (and my brother) joined us for dinner at Piper’s restaurant of choice. Aside from slipping off her high-top chair and slamming her chin into the table, I think she had a good time. She insisted that we not let the servers sing to her, but happily accepted the free ice cream sundae :)      sundaeAfter dinner we all came back here for cake & presents. Except for the present from her sister, which they mutually agreed she could open before dinner (it was a Pinypon, and somehow Kady reasoned me into letting her get one too).

girlsbday

m party2

The next day, Piper had a “friend party” at Michael’s (the craft store), where 9 little girls painted suncatchers and decorated (and ate) cupcakes. And acted totally crazy with a bunch of balloons.

group2hands

On another note, I can’t believe there’s only a month left of school! Piper’s kindergarten year has absolutely flown by, more than any other year since I’ve been a parent. Overall, it’s been an excellent experience for all of us. Her teacher is wonderful, and we’ve been really happy with both her school, and the school district as a whole.

Somewhat aside: Her principal is particularly awesome. On different occasions, I’ve seen him: moving carts of large musical instruments, taking pictures at the kindergarten holiday parties, refilling the hand sanitizer they keep in the hallway, facilitating the kindergarten bus lines on a 2-hour-delay day (no small feat), and, at an outside-of-school event, wearing his own infant in a baby carrier on his chest while socializing with students. While I’m sure they did important work, my main memory of my elementary school principal(s) are listening to them speak at assemblies.) I think it’s great that even the littlest students know him by name and face, and he’s out and among them often and not just some authority figure sitting in an office. The Assistant Principal seems nice too – after one PTA meeting, he came up and told Kady he liked her dress. And told me a bit about how his own young daughter also wears only skirts/dresses too :)

I definitely noticed too (although it wasn’t a total surprise) that kindergarten isn’t what it used to be. I don’t remember my kindergarten experience, but according to my mom, it was a lot of playing and just getting used to being away from our parents. My Dad says that he took naps and colored in kindergarten. All of this (except the naps) sounds more like what happens in the 2-year-old class at the girls’ preschool.

In Piper’s kindergarten class, at this point, every kid can read (albeit at different levels.) Most of them can sound out and write words and sentences without assistance, at least to enough that  you can decipher them despite any mis-spellings. They’re finishing up working on single-digit addition & subtraction. They do read stories as a class – but then they talk about things like fiction vs. non-fiction, themes, plot, characters, etc.

I give kindergarten teachers so much credit (for many reasons), but I think their jobs are particularly hard because the kids start off at such vastly different levels. I volunteered in Piper’s class a few weeks after the school year started, and noticed there were a couple kids who were just learning to identify their letters, and others who could practically read chapter books. Yea – those were the extremes of each side – most kids, Piper included, fell somewhere in the middle. But I’m sure it’s a challenge to help the kids on the lower-end catch up while still challenging the higher-achieving kids – and not “neglecting” all those kids in the middle who still need to strive and improve. Especially when you’re one teacher in a room of 20 kids. But  I have to say that Piper’s teacher definitely knew what she was doing, and while there will always be kids of varying abilities, there is a vastly smaller range between what the more-and-less advanced kids in the class can do these days.

I’m so ready for summer. It never seemed like that big of a deal when the girls were in preschool, but now I’m so looking forward to not to deal with the dual AM kindergarten/PM preschool rush. The IL’s generously got us a pass to Coney Island for Christmas, and I anticipate spending tons of time at the pool this summer, making several trips to the zoo, and just hanging out with nowhere to go/be.

Since this whole post was entirely outside of the apparent-theme of this blog, here’s a picture of a purse I made last week (the print is tiny butterflies, and the lining is a floral vintage sheet.) It was the first thing I ever sewed from a pattern (this one), and I found the whole process way more time-consuming than I expected. I’m pretty happy with the results, although in the end, I don’t love my fabric choices (I think it needs more of a color “pop” somewhere.)

purse

Felting Fun

I realize the timing of this post is a little off, since most of us (myself included!) are thinking Spring (and not wool sweaters) but I’ve had it half-written for a while, so here goes.

This past winter I decided to try out felting (after seeing an awesome patchwork throw blanket in a magazine) and found it to be a really fun, easy, and versatile craft. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with this form of felting, you basically machine wash and dry wool sweaters, which (as you’d expect) shrinks them up, creating a thick, dense wool material that’s easily cut and doesn’t unravel, making it ideal for all kinds of projects. Both of my daughters’ teachers got felted wool projects as (part of) their Christmas gifts this year –

Felted wool wreath -

wreath

Felted wool business card/gift card holder -

card holder

(I also made myself one)

felt

Although I’m far from an expert on felting wool, I’ve been having fun with it for a few months now. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way :)

Be picky when choosing sweaters. Stick to those that are at least 80% wool. Still, I’ve had, by far, the best luck using 100% wool sweaters. While I’ve heard that other animal fibers will also felt well, that wasn’t true in my experience (I also had minimal luck getting merino wool to shrink up to the consistency I prefer). Keep an eye out for bright fun prints & patterns, but be aware that knits with “things” (animals, letters, etc.) may be rendered undecipherable by the felting process. I got my sweaters at thrift stores, almost all of them on “half-off” day (for $3.50 or so).

Don’t over-shrink. It’s fine to run a sweater through another cycle if it didn’t shrink as much as you’d like the first-time around. But do this with a bit of caution – I had a couple sweaters shrink too much, making the material too rough and almost wavy in texture.

Use very sharp scissors (or rotary cutter blade) These are kind of obvious, but since you don’t hem felted wool, it’s important to cut with a nice sharp blade for a clean edge.

Take advantagcupe of sweater parts. For example, in probably the quickest project I’ve ever done, I made this pencil cup by cutting off part of a  sleeve and sliding it over a tin can.

 

 

 

Hand vs. Machine Sewing felted wool. You can sew felted wood either by hand or using your sewing machine. I tried it both ways and strongly preferred to do it by hand. It’s very easy to work with, and I liked the flexibility of using colorful crewel wool or embroidery floss and various stitches to create different looks. If you do choose to machine sew your felted wool, in most cases you can just “smush” the edges of the pieces you’re sewing together, and use a zig-zag stitch to sew across the both pieces (use a ball-point needle for knits).

I got great info about working with felted wool, as well as neat project ideas, from the book The Sweater Chop Shop by Crispina Ffrench (totally genuine, non-affiliate, non-sponsored recommendation).

The most random treasure hunt ever

The very best thing about junk hunting (aka curbside shopping, etc.) is that you just never know what you’ll find. Even more-so than secondhand shopping, when searching the side of the road for discarded goods, you could literally come across anything.

Although I mostly pick up furniture & bigger things (because I don’t usually dig through bins & boxes, and just take what I can see,) sometimes I find other stuff that I just can’t pass up.

I’ve cut down on hunting for roadside finds lately, mostly due to a lack of space and a huge backlog of furniture that’s waiting for me to work on it.  But when coming home from my parent’s house last week, I couldn’t help but notice the piles and piles of stuff all around their neighborhood. Much of it was empty boxes, but I decided to go down a few extra side streets in case anyone tossed out something good, maybe in their NY resolution to de-clutter :)

But beteatowelfore doing that, I grabbed this cute tea towel from the top of a box put out by my parent’s next-door neighbor (the rest of the box contained old – but clean – men’s t-shirts, which I took straight to St. Vincent de Paul to donate.)

 

A few houses down from my parents, someone had set this dry-erase board & unopened wedding guest book on top of their closed trash can, essentially willing it to be picked up. (I donated the dry erase board and already sold the guest book on Etsy).

weddingbook

Around the corner I grabbed this neat old dart-board cabinet, complete with chalkboard interior for keeping score.

dartboard

And then this spice rack – I won’t use the spices, and don’t need a spice rack, but I can definitely find another use for it (probably storing sewing or craft supplies). And this under-bed storage bin.

spice

Then I turned a corner and saw this scarecrow sticking out of a box, along with a couple of big fake bonsai trees (which I didn’t take, they were huge). I hopped out of the car to grab it and the wreath sitting next to it, and then I noticed there were a few additional boxes filled with stuff that obviously wasn’t trash. Since it was freezing and close to the girls’ bedtime, I threw the boxes in my car to look at at home.

scarecrowwreath

One box was full of (unused) colored copy paper, card stock, scrapbooking supplies, and those borders that teachers use around their bulletin boards. Another was packed full of CDs. There were also some Christmas decorations, a nice pair of Clauss scissors, and a big carton of foam stickers. (I donated most of this stuff – minus the CDs, which I still need to go through – to the girls’ schools).

paper stuffAnd a giant ziploc bag full of old pictures. They cover this one man’s whole life – baby pictures, him as a child, his High School graduation photo, him in the Air Force and working at a factory, he and his wife as a twenty-something couple, and then with a baby – the most recent (presumably) are him at his daughter’s wedding, and sitting around a campfire as an old man. I can’t believe someone threw these away. I don’t even remember which house I got this stuff from, or I would go back and see if it was done by mistake. None of it is marked, so I have no idea of his name. But I find the pictures fascinating. I don’t know what to do with them, but I definitely won’t be throwing them away.

picturesIf you would have given me 10 guesses of what I might find junk hunting that night, I don’t think I would have said guest book, spice rack, copy paper, or a lifetime of pictures. I love the unpredictableness of it. Of course, there are many times I go out specifically to junk hunt and find nothing. But those instances are worth all of the cool stuff that I have found.

Speaking of, I added a bunch of new things from this summer/fall to my Roadside Finds gallery if you want to check it out.

If you’ve found anything cool on the side of the road, please share!

My Newest Favorite Thing…

I got this Dormeyer electric percolator at an estate sale many months ago, and it’s been sitting there waiting to be listed in my Etsy shop ever since. I ended up bringing it to the antique show I took part in August, where a shopper told me that I would regret it if I didn’t keep it to use because it makes the best pot of coffee.

I’m a total coffee addict, and maybe the reason it never made it onto Etsy is because I subconsciously wanted to keep it all along. I recently decided to try it out (not sure what took so long) and she was right – it does make an amazing pot of coffee. Not only that but it doesn’t require filters, there’s a sliding lever to easily adjust the coffee strength, and it looks nicer than a hunk of plastic sitting in the kitchen. I mean, it fits right in with my 70’s-era gold-flecked laminate countertops :p

Etsy Sale!

I’ve been doing a little too much shopping lately and need to make room (literally!) for my new finds. For a limited time, you can use the coupon code 25OFF to get 25% off your entire order (minus s/h) in my Etsy Shop!

As always, if you’re local to Cincinnati I’m happy to meet up so you can avoid shipping costs :)

                                           ON ETSY

Junk Hunting from a Junk Hunter

One time this summer I was talking about some of my great roadside finds when my brother jokingly called me “a picker.” I wasn’t insulted or anything, but the truth is, what I (and the many, many like me) do is far from what you see on American Pickers & the like.  While I would love to be able to go through someone’s house/yard/garage/etc. looking for things to buy and hearing the histories behind any interesting items, my vein of “picking” is basically driving around the suburbs and grabbing things from the curb (it’s come to be known as “junk hunting” at our house.) There’s little in the way of human interaction, although once a very nice man came out with his drill and took apart the  wooden bed he had set on the curb so I could fit it into my car. There was only one other time I actually talked to the person I was “picking” from.

I had seen a craigslist ad for free garage sale leftovers, and it was only a couple blocks away from my house. Funnily, I had actually WENT to the garage sale at that house the day before, but only had $2.00 cash with me so I bought very little. When I showed up, the guy was still bringing boxes of things to the curb. As I started loading up my car, he said “go ahead, take everything you can – I do it too.” I smiled and thanked him, and he kind of hesitated, then continued – “actually, I make a living doing just that.” I stopped loading and said “really?”

He went on to tell me that he earns around $30K a year picking up “junk” and selling it through local auction houses. He’s not a furniture rehabber or DIYer – his key is in the sheer volume of stuff he picks up & sells. He actually gave me some good tips on what neighborhoods to hit on various days of the week, and recommended the best auction company to use should I ever decide to go that route. It was such an interesting and unexpected encounter! (and the guy is practically my neighbor…) I ended up getting the speakers I used to make this piece of cat furniture, along with about 4 boxes of random glassware & Christmas decorations. I’m not really sure why he chose to get rid of this stuff versus auction it off, because it was all clean and in decent condition (but if I had to guess, I’d say he probably had no shortage of things to auction & didn’t want to bother with a few boxes of little stuff that would probably only go for a few bucks.)

Even funnier, a couple of days later I was picking things up from one of the online estate sale places I frequent (that also takes consignments) and in walks this very guy. Turns out he knows the owner well (as do I, by this point) and consigns things through him pretty regularly. He was bringing in this very unique wooden sculpture to consign – which recently turned up – refinished – at the antique mall where I have a booth. It’s a small junkin’ world around here!

Hand-carved candlestand

Stopping by to share a quick rehab I just finished :)

I got this hand-carved candle stand at a thrift store for $3.50. It had a crack in the base, and the finish was pretty bad with lots of water stains and scuffs. It’s such a unique & pretty piece though – I didn’t get a picture, but if you look at the bottom you can see the rings from the tree – it was most likely carved right out of the trunk.

I really hesitated about painting it, because it had such a beautiful natural color and characteristics, but after patching the crack with wood filler and using some Restore-a-Finish on the top, I still wasn’t thrilled with how it looked (and the wood filler didn’t exactly match.) So I went ahead and spray painted it marigold yellow and chipped it up a bit. Something like this just didn’t look right with a flawless glossy finish!

BEFORE

AFTER

I’ve picked up some amazing roadside finds lately that I’ll be back soon to share!

4th Sundays MainStrasse Antiques

Yesterday I set up a booth at 4th Sundays, a monthly outdoor antiques sale in MainStrasse Village in Covington, KY. My Dad came along to help out, and sell a few of his own things, and Steve and the girls showed up later. It was the first time I’ve done something like this, and although there are a few things I’ll do differently next time, overall it went pretty well.

The Good:

  • The setting – MainStrasse is a charming neighborhood, and the sale took place along both sides of a paved walkway and was almost all in the shade. It was a really nice place to spend the day.
  • The crowd – I thought the event had a really good turnout! There was pretty much a steady stream of people from about 8:45 to 2:00ish, and many stragglers after that (it took place from 9-3).
  • I had put up a little sign at my booth mentioning my booth at the antique mall (and my Etsy shop) and I had several people ask where the antique mall was and say they’d have to come check it out.
  • I got to meet Judi Ketteler, who wrote Sew Retro. She bought a couple of my vintage jewelry magnets, and I complimented her on her super-cute bag that had a vintage hankie on the front. We got to talking, and she (completely unpretentiously) mentioned that she had authored a book and told me the name of it. I had previously heard of Sew Retro (and had added it to my to-read list) but had no idea the author was local! We chatted a bit – she’s very nice and wasn’t annoyed at all by my questions about how she made her bag, even though it’s one of the projects included in her book. I’m going to order Sew Retro from her website very soon!

The Not-So-Great:

  • The heat. It was a pretty, sunny day, and the first part of the morning was absolutely gorgeous. But later on, it got HOT. Even in the shade, it was to the point of being uncomfortable, and packing up afterward was not fun at all. Speaking of…
  • Packing & unpacking. Setting up my 10×10 booth at the antique mall took a lot of work, but at least I only had to do it once.
  • My sales. I talked to a few other vendors after the event, and it seems that no one did that great. I heard a lot of “people were looking, but not buying.” That said, I did sell enough to at least pay for the booth rental, which was my ultimate goal. I didn’t expect to make a killing, but it would have been nice to sell a little bit more (if for no reason other than to get it out of my house).

Overall, I’m glad we tried it. September is really busy for me, but I’d like to do another outdoor show in October – I just haven’t decided which one yet.

I had to leave this on the side of the road….

….due to lack of car space & manpower (Sob!) It was kind of beat up, and I doubt it works, but what a beautiful piece of furniture! My mind was swimming with ideas for it, but after 10 minutes on the side of a busy road, rearranging my trunk and attempting to slide it over to my car, I came to the realization that there was no way I was getting it home. I only hope some other junker got it! Would hate to see this one go to waste.

On the bright side, before heading to a night-before-kindergarten dinner last night (yes, Piper started kindergarten today!) I took a drive around my parent’s neighborhood and came upon a house where it looked like the tenants had recently been evicted. I don’t normally dig through trash cans, but I took a look inside one that obviously didn’t contain actual garbage, and I found this beauty!

Only a junker could appreciate it, I’m sure….but I can’t wait to upholster a chair with it. I also got a couple pieces of pottery, a big jar full of unused matchbooks, and this neat little “spanish guitar tuning pipe” in a leather case.

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I have about 30 pieces of extra furniture in my house that are just waiting for me to work on them. All I need is the time to do it! I hope to be back to share some finished projects soon….

Old Stereo Speakers Upcycled to Cat Tree

My inspiration for this upcycle was a double-decker cat bed made from an old suitcase that I saw a picture of. While keeping my eye out for a suitcase to use, I came across a set of mismatched beat-up stereo speakers on the side of the road. It was actually pretty interesting, because as I picked these up, the man who lived at the house came outside and told me to help myself to whatever I wanted (I also got a like-new artificial Christmas wreath). He then told me that he actually does “this” for a living, and proceeded to share the best nights to check out different neighborhoods and recommend an auction house if I ever decide to consign anything.

the crappy “before” pic I almost forgot to take

Despite having 1,001,001 projects waiting, and a few in progress, I got started on the speakers right away. It actually turned out to be a lot harder of a project than I anticipated! Part of it was due to my lack of certain power tools – a circular saw, in particular – and a real work table. I’ll be getting these things before starting anything else that requires sawing off 2x4s trying to cut a shape out of plywood.

As usual, I failed to take many “during” pictures. Steve helped me with the demo-ing, and that was the fun part. But I had failed to account for the fact that these weren’t real wood, rather a cheap particle-board material. The sides ended up falling off the smaller speaker, and it proved tricky to do any nailing or screwing without cracking a whole piece. But, I figured out that by relying mainly on L-brackets for support (and using tiny screws) I could make it work.

The top level was kind of an after-thought. I just cut a (rough) circle out of a piece of plywood that I had lying around and then used my staple gun to attach batting and then fabric.I sewed the pillows out of an old vintage sheet and hot glued a strip of velcro to the bottom and the surface so they wouldn’t constantly be falling off. I didn’t put a ton of effort into making everything look perfect – after all, this is just a cat tree, and it’s for my own home. But I think it turned out pretty cute, and it was definitely a TON cheaper than the carpet-covered cat trees you can buy in the store! Really, my only expense at all was the fabric and paint, which I already had, (and which barely cost anything anyway – the paint was from the mis-tint section, and the fabric was a remnant and an old sheet.)